Two academics from the University of West England (UWE) have concluded that that although support is strong for 20mph limits in residential areas and busy streets, police enforcement is needed to “confront the driving of a minority”.
Professors Alan Tapp and Clive Nancarrow of UWE’s Social Marketing Centre reached their conclusions after analysing the results of a recent YouGov survey of Great Britain, which they say shows “clear majority of support for 20mph limits".
In the YouGov survey, 65% of respondents support or strongly support 20mph limits in residential streets and 72% support the same limit in busy shopping areas and busy streets.
Road safety and children’s safety were the key reasons given for supporting 20mph limits. Other less important reasons included making streets more pleasant to live in, encouraging more walking and cycling, reducing noise and improving the quality of life.
Professor Clive Nancarrow said: “We found a higher level of support for 20mph in residential areas amongst women and older age groups.
“There was also an association with voting intention, with a higher level of support for 20mph limits amongst Green (75%) and Labour voters (70%) and a lower level of support amongst Conservatives (60%), UKIP (60%) and Lib-Dems (63%).”
Commenting on whether motorists will obey 20mph limits, professor Alan Tapp said: “While a majority of drivers (64%) agree that they ‘will be careful to observe new 20 mph limits wherever they are’, nevertheless a minority (31%) say ‘If a 20mph speed limit is introduced, I may not stick to it’.
“Other data may provide clues as to why this divide exists. For instance almost three quarters (73%) of adults in Great Britain agree that breaking speed limits is not acceptable in most circumstances and nearly two thirds (59%) think most people drive too quickly.
“But on the other hand 28% of drivers agreed ‘I use my own judgement, not speed limits, to decide on my speed on the road’, while 49% thought ‘It is just too difficult to stay at 20mph’.
“Almost a third of people (30%) thought that 20mph is an example of a nanny state; and a small minority (7%) demonstrated their libertarian beliefs agreeing that ‘I think people should be free to drive at whatever speed they want to’.
Professor Tapp continued: “Apart from these divides in attitude, local authorities and 20mph supporters need to also be aware of a possible ‘vicious circle’ effect, in which those who want to comply with the new limits may be put off from doing so because they are affected by the driving behaviour of others: 37% of drivers said they ‘tend to drive at the speed of others on the road’.
“This ‘copycat effect’ may be compounded by a feeling amongst the large majority – 71% of drivers – who agreed that ‘people will ignore 20mph limits because they don’t see themselves getting caught by the police’.
“That’s why clear and unequivocal police support for 20mph limits would be very welcome for those who want a new culture of driving at slower speeds in built up areas.”
Click here to read the full UWE news release.